Love's Labour's Lost, NT Olivier, London<br></br>Honour, NT Cottesloe, London<br></br>The Green Man, Bush, London<br></br>Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Donmar Warehouse, London - Reviews - Theatre & Dance - The Independent

Love's Labour's Lost, NT Olivier, London

Honour, NT Cottesloe, London

The Green Man, Bush, London

Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Donmar Warehouse, London

Parting is such sugary sorrow

Presumably Love's Labour's Lost is meant to be Sir Trev's gooey, goodbye treat. It's one helluva lavish, sugary farewell from the National's outgoing artistic director. Apologies if I sound ungrateful. I think it's splendid that Nunn contributed some of his own money to the National. However, watching his staging of Shakespeare's early romantic comedy – translated to an Edwardian country estate – is like drowning in a vat of condensed milk.

John Gunter's set is pretty as a picture – a Merchant Ivory picture. Maybe the movie contract has, in fact, already been signed as Joseph Fiennes' Berowne and his three aristocratic chums idle in linen suits in a forest glade that comes complete with hectares of real grass, a vast beech and cohorts of gamekeepers and cute village schoolboys. Nunn's choruses of "common folk" always look peculiarly cheesy though they do alert you to class relations.

This lot are soon joined by the four ladies who distract the lords from their sworn devotion to books by swanning round in lace gowns. Regrettably, this is all so excessively gorgeous that the "gorge rises at it", especially when composer Steven Edis's syrupy score is added to the mix.

And it doesn't mask the potentially arid and bald aspects of the script – the archaic jokes and schematic couplings. A better antidote would have been for Nunn's actors to really exude the zest of youth and of sharp minds stimulated by schooling.

Berowne's beloved Rosaline, played by Kate Fleetwood, is more smug than sparky, and Fiennes' Berowne is a handsomely lolling humorist with no aggressive edge. So the tempering penance his sweetheart imposes on him – trying to make the dying laugh for a year – seems peculiarly harsh.

Still, some scenes charm with Simon Day's nerdy King and Olivia Williams's teasing yet sensitive Princess. The narrative frame Nunn imposes, where Berowne is perhaps fatally shot on a First World War battlefield, also fits with the sombre turn this comedy takes.

One should also note that Nunn's reign is generally ending on a high with The Talking Cure, Janet McTeer in The Duchess of Malfi and, now, Roger Mitchell's intense UK premiere of Honour. Written by Australia's Joanna Murray-Smith, this is a portrait of a marriage shattered by a late-life crisis. Corin Redgrave's George, a successful writer, suddenly bins his devoted wife, Eileen Atkins' Honor, for a heady affair with a smart young journalist, Catherine McCormack's Claudia.

Murray-Smith's writing, at its best, is searching and droll, naturalistic and poetically honed. Occasionally, McCormack's feminist Claudia sounds wooden. But Redgrave lets fierce egocentricity seep subtly through mild manners. Atkins's progress from confidence to grief to independence is riveting, as is Anna Maxwell Martin playing their shocked, furious daughter. Michell's traverse staging – with a Japanese minimalist feel to its sandy blinds and bare floor – tightly contains any sentimentality in this sometimes harrowing play.

Extramarital flings and whisky-fuelled aggression are going to sever whatever ties bind the blokes in Doug Lucie's new pub drama, The Green Man, especially since the construction company boss, Mitch, crassly scoffs at his sensitive foreman, Lou, for not being a "real man". I reckon The Priory is going to have to open another wing, to cope with the growing addiction to setting plays in boozers. It must be said, though, Lucie's script is no match for The Weir.

Simon Stokes' production is highly commendable. Julie Legrand excels as the tough landlady, Linda, who has a soft-spot for Phil Daniels' scruffy, brooding Lou. But Mitch seems relentlessly vile, even though Danny Webb endows him with a nervous underside. Also, in spite of Lucie's ear for chat, the conflicts can seem repetitive.

Finally, artistic director Michael Grandage is taking the Donmar in new directions with an emphasis on modern European classics. This looks disastrous at first in Robert Delamere's revival of Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Dario Fo's satirical farce was political dynamite in Italy in 1970, alluding to the "accidental" fall from a police station window of a radical supposed bomber. Though terrorism and deaths in custody are, of course, relevant to Britain, Simon Nye's bouncy new English adaptation lacks Fo's original trenchant topicality.

Rhys Ifans' initial zany antics seem desperately hyperactive too. Playing the lunatic who – after the "fall" – sneaks into the coppers HQ armed with disguises, Ifans leaps around in a Spiderman suit, tiresomely switching accents. Emma Amos is also awkward as the blonde bombshell journalist who snoops round near the end. Nevertheless, the central send-up of the justice system becomes coruscating as Ifans transmogrifies into a judge who conducts a mock-investigation into the "accident". Veering between damning sarcasm and egging on preposterous alibis, he scares Adrian Scarborough's thuggish Superintendent silly. Getting the cops to tearfully chorus protest ballads – shaking handcuffs like tambourines – is a wonderful flight of fancy with a sardonic sting in its tail.

k.bassett@independent.co.uk

'Love's Labour's Lost' & 'Honour': NT, London SE1 (020 7452 3000), to 18 March & 27 March respectively; 'The Green Man': Bush, London W12 (020 7610 4224), to 22 March; 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist': Donmar Warehouse, London WC2 (020 7369 1732), to 19 April

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week